Running a student demonstration? Points to note

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 Students were indignant that an extra charge was being made by their institution in addition to the £9,000 tuition fee and without their having been informed about it when they accepted a place.  This was £200 a term for ‘use of equipment’. Some students refused to pay and the institution refused to allow them to graduate until they did.

There was a demonstration and students waving banners and distributing a snowstorm of confetti ‘money’ printed on a departmental photocopier, marched into the Registrar’s office and captured his PA, tying her to her chair and gagging her as a protestThe Registrar called the police and the students were arrested for ‘false imprisonment’ of the PA.

Campaigning groups of students or academics may form, and want to organise a demonstration about national or local concerns.  It is very important to think clearly and plan carefully to make sure what happens stays within the law.

Sometimes student protest seeks to prevent a speaker from giving a lecture or making a speech on the campus.  Providers should ensure that they review and keep up to date the code of practice required (except for alternative providers) under the provisions of Education (No.2) Act 1986 s.43.

43 Freedom of speech in universities, polytechnics and colleges.

(1) Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.

(3) The governing body of every such establishment shall, with a view to facilitating the discharge of the duty imposed by subsection (1) above in relation to that establishment, issue and keep up to date a code of practice setting out—

(a) the procedures to be followed by members, students and employees of the establishment in connection with the organisation—

        (i) of meetings which are to be held on premises of the establishment and which fall within any class of meeting specified in the code; and

       (ii) of other activities which are to take place on those premises and which fall within any class of activity so specified; and

(b) the conduct required of such persons in connection with any such meeting or activity;

and dealing with such other matters as the governing body consider appropriate. 

Suggestions 

Students should read the code which applies to their own provider.

If you are planning a student demonstration or protest, to avoid possible damaging and expensive ‘fall-out’ which may damage your cause, and before you set up a website or Facebook or Twitter or blog or go to the media.

  • Ask the Chairman of the Governors, the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar for a meeting to see whether you can resolve the controversy internally in a cooperative spirit.
  •   Read the institution’s IT regulations before you use the University’s server or computing facilities for the activities of your group and make sure you follow them.

Resources

Education (No.2) Act 1986 s.43.

Examples of codes created under this Act:

http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/councilsec/gov/fos.shtml

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/secretariat/governance/charterandstatutes/freedomofspeech

http://students.shu.ac.uk/rightsrules/othercodesandpolicies/it/13.html